Collective trademark or certification mark?

Trademarks that are managed by associations or certain quality labels can form specific types of brands, which differ from individual trademarks in several aspects; these are respectively called collective trademarks and certification marks.

The collective trademark is managed by the members of an association. The association is the holder of the collective trademark, and the mark is used in way to guarantee to the consumer that the products or services originate from the members of this association. Typically this type of trademark is used by manufacturers' associations, for example a group of farmers active in a given region. Unlike the certification mark, a collective mark can designate a geographical origin.

A certification mark indicates that the holder certifies a certain number of characteristics for the goods in question. For example that these are developed in a certain way or that they meet certain quality criteria. In principle, all possible and imaginable characteristics can be certified in this way, with the exception of the geographical origin of the products or services. Anyone can be the holder of a certification mark provided that he does not himself supply the certified products or services. As in the case for the old “collective mark” (this terminology used to encompass both the collective and certification marks), regulations for the use of the certification mark must be provided at the moment of filing the trademark.

Sometimes it is not entirely clear whether to register a certain mark as an individual mark or a collective / certification mark. In many cases, it may be more useful to file an individual mark and to offer licenses to others, giving them the right to use the mark under certain conditions.

The choice between the kinds of trademarks is however very important and will have legal consequences (for example on the rules of use and necessary watching), along with the administrative consequences on formalities and costs. Therefore, when this type of situation arises, it is essential to call on an expert such as brantsandpatents.

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